Fujitsu LifeBook S7220

  • Editors' rating
    7.4 Very good

Pros

  • Integrated mobile broadband
  • Solid chassis, albeit with some flex in the lid
  • Good camera and associated software

Cons

  • Slightly dull screen
  • Power-saving mode is difficult to work with
  • Small touchpad

Fujitsu's LifeBook S series of notebooks is designed to offer a balance of high-end performance and portability (including integrated mobile broadband). According to Fujitsu (note the absence of 'Siemens' these days) the 2.2kg, 14.1in. S7220 is 'your best friend on the move'.

Fujitsu's LifeBook S7220 has a 14.1in. screen, weighs 2.2kg and includes (in our review sample) a mobilr broadband module.

Design
The LifeBook S7220's design is utilitarian rather than stylish. The lid section has a splash of piano black along the top, which lends a little panache to the outer casing. Inside, the white keyboard with mercury-coloured surround may not appeal to all tastes.

Fujitsu is very good at ensuring its notebooks travel well. In particular, the S7220's lid and base sections hold together very well in transit, thanks to a solid clasp. Build quality is generally solid all round, although there's some flex in the lid section.

Weighing 2.2kg and measuring 33.4cm by 24.2cm by 3.7cm, the LifeBook S7220 falls into the 'thin-and-light' rather than 'ultraportable' (sub-2kg) category. But what you lose in portability, you gain in screen size.

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Measuring 14.1in. across the diagonal, the S7220's screen has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels. The display has a matte finish, making it possible to work indoors with a light source ( such as a window) to the rear without being bothered by reflections. Viewing angles are fine in both the horizontal and vertical planes; our only real complaint is that the screen lacks vibrancy.

The large keys on the spill-proof keyboard are well designed for fast touch-typing. We type with a fairly light touch, and didn't notice any flex in the keyboard during general use. However, heavier-handed typists may notice some give in the keyboard.

A row of near-full-size function keys sits above the number row. Above this are five large buttons, one of which is the on/off switch. The remaining four are shortcut buttons. One takes you to the Fujitsu web site, while a second opens the Windows Mobility Center, where you can adjust system settings and access some Fujitsu customisations. The third button locks the notebook so that you can safely walk away while it's running.

The fourth shortcut button activates the notebook's power saving mode. This disables the optical drive, PC Card slot and flash card reader, LAN and modem, and lowers the display brightness. Screen brightness in power-saving mode is extremely low, and you may not be able to work effectively for any length of time. You can always adjust the brightness manually with a Fn key combination though.

The touchpad is a little small, but does include a fingerprint reader with scroll capability.

Beneath the keyboard is a touchpad. This is responsive, but a little uncomfortable to use as it's on the small side. There are no vertical or horizontal scroll capabilities built into it. Between the two mouse buttons is a fingerprint sensor, which also offers scrolling functionality.

Two further mouse buttons sit above the touchpad. These are designed for use with the pointing stick that sits between the G, H and B keys. They are rather thin and we found them a little awkward to use.

There is a 1.3-megapixel webcam built into the lid section above the screen. Fujitsu includes some usable software that lets you take photos, shoot video and do videoconferencing, and capture still images. You can also do face tracking, which works very well and is remarkably responsive.

Features
There are several processor choices available with this notebook. Our review unit had an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 running at 2.53GHz. Other options include the T9550 (2.66GHz), P8700 (2.53GHz) and P8600 (2.4GHz). The chipset is Intel's GM45 Express, and the system came with 2GB of DDR3 RAM.

Graphics are managed by the GM45's integrated GMA 4500MHD module, which will drive an external monitor at resolutions up to 1,900 by 1,200 pixels. The operating system in our review sample was Windows Vista Business, although other options include Vista Home Basic and Windows XP Professional.

Our review sample had a 160GB hard drive, but you can also configure the S7220 with a 320GB drive. The hard drive has built-in shock protection to shield your data from the rigours of on-the-road life.

The S7220's optional Sierra Wireless MC8790 HSPA module comes with Fujitsu's 3G Watcher software.

Mobile broadband was present in our review sample, although the Sierra Wireless MC8790 HSPA module does not come as standard. The MC8790 supports up to 7.2Mbps downstream and 2.0Mbps upstream. Fujitsu includes its 3G Watcher software for managing internet connections. This is extremely easy to use and we had no trouble getting connected using our Orange SIM.

The LifeBook S7220 also includes Wi-Fi (802.11b/g or a/b/g + Draft-N) and Bluetooth (2.1). A mechanical switch on the front of the notebook lets you turn these wireless connections on and off. Gigabit Ethernet and a V.92 modem take care of wired connectivity.

You'll find ports and connectors on all four edges of the S7220.

Ports and connectors are ranged around all four edges of the notebook. The back houses just one — the Ethernet (RJ-45) port. The modem (RJ-11) port is towards the front on the right edge, which is an unusually prominent location for a legacy connector that's unlikely to be used very often.

Behind the modem, on the right edge, sits the optical drive. This is removable and can be replaced with a second battery to help extend the S7220's working life away from mains power. At the very front of the right edge is a single USB port, with a SmartCard reader above it.

On the left edge, behind a covered slot, is a VGA-out port for an external monitor. Further forward are two more USB connectors and an ExpressCard slot. On the front edge is a flash card reader for SD-compatible media and Memory Stick formats, plus a pair of audio jacks.

Performance & battery life
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for the S7220 is unremarkable. The overall score of 3.7 (out of 5.9) is better than that achieved by the last LifeBook we reviewed, the P8020. However, it's still not near the scores over 4 that we have seen from some notebooks.

The lowest score of 3.7 went to Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance), while by Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero) clicked a slightly higher 3.9. The remaining components all scored highly (over 5), with Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) at 5.3, Processor (calculations per second) at 5.4 and RAM (Memory operations per second) at 5.6.

As far as battery life is concerned, Fujitsu says you should get up to 5 hours' work from the main 6-cell 5,800mAh battery. Buy a second 6-cell 3,800mAh battery and you should get up to 8 hours all told. As we've already noted, there is a pre-configured power saving mode that extends battery life by switching off some components and lowering the screen brightness. We not sure you'll be able to work effectively with these settings — the screen brightness, in particular, is very low in this mode.

We chose the Power Saver power plan and watched a movie for as long as the notebook allowed with just the main battery running. Under these conditions we got 2 hours 19 minutes. You should be able to get through half a day's mains-free work with this notebook, but a full day is likely to require a recharge or investment in a second battery.

Conclusion
Fujitsu's LifeBook S7220 is a solidly built 'thin and light' notebook, and its integrated mobile broadband and good camera software are welcome. The keyboard is comfortable and performance adequate so long as you don't need fast graphics. All in all, it's a good mobile workhorse.

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